IPSO bares its teeth at last to savage Sun in resolute terms
There's an interesting time on the horizon for editors - and potentially for politicians, too. Just as IPSO, the new Press regulator, starts to get into its stride, a rival for the public's affections is up and running.
Calling itself Impress, the new body has raised the temperature in an already-fevered debate by announcing it is to seek recognition with the Government-sponsored Press Recognition Panel UK under the controversial Royal Charter.
Before we get lost in a thicket of relatively obscure industry bodies and quangos, let me remind you (and myself, to be frank) what the Press Recognition Panel is. The truth is that almost no one has heard of it, and even fewer people know what it does. In its own words, the panel was set up in November last year as a legal body by the Royal Charter set up following the Leveson Report into the culture, practices and ethics of the Press.
On October 30, the previous year, a Royal Charter was granted which, on November 3, 2014, established the Recognition Panel - a fully independent body - to consider whether Press regulators meet the recognition criteria.
In other words, the panel assesses regulators to see if they are complaint with the terms of the Royal Charter. Given that the charter is hated, rejected and generally ignored by the media industry, and with some politicians dubious about the charter, the panel sits in a rather strange position. A deeply controversial plank of the charter was that publishers who are members of recognised regulators will be shielded from the risk of exemplary damages in complaints that make it to court.
However, this means that everyone else is exposed to such a risk just because they are not a member of a Government-approved regulation service. Personally, I think such blatantly unfair legislation is unlikely to survive the inevitable legal challenges that will be heaped upon it should it ever be used.
It remains to be seen whether the three major newspaper groups not in IPSO - The Guardian, Financial Times and The Independent/Evening Standard - will sign up to Impress should it gain panel recognition. Unlikely, I would have thought, which prompts the question: will the panel recognise a regulator that has no members?
People suspicious of IPSO might want to look at a recent series of rulings on complaints, which show the organisation does, in fact, bare its teeth at Press misbehaviour.
This week it censured The Sun and its columnist Rod Liddle for crudely mocking a woman's gender identity and her disability.
Having upheld the complaint, IPSO forced The Sun to publish its ruling on the same page as Liddle's column and online.
However, the decision was more important than just forcing The Sun to carry a lengthy adjudication on the column. It was a landmark decision because it is the first complaint IPSO has accepted from a representative group rather than an individual.
The is a fundamental difference from the old Press Complaints Committee, which would not accept group complaints.
The Sun says it has reviewed its editorial processes and introduced a new policy requiring all articles relating to transgender matters to be approved by its managing editor (a former PCC director) before publication.
This is a huge shift in behaviour by The Sun, a paper that for years acted as if it was beyond criticism.
The media monitoring group Hacked Off has now launched a website called IPSO Watch aiming to expose IPSO as a "sham Press regulator".
Good. Scrutiny and accountability are key and it's great to see IPSO held to account even if it is by a group with a particularly jaundiced vision.
Keeping an organisation on its toes is never a bad thing.